By HCR Staff | January 19, 2021
No matter how good Tom Brady has been since joining the Bucs, and how well head coach Bruce Arians has led the team, you still need to have players to win.
And generally speaking, picking the players is the job of the General Manager.
Scouting is an all-year round endeavor, and its one reason why it’s so difficult for any head coach to also serve in the general manager role as well. The scouting operation has to be actively managed on a day-to-day basis, and the lifeblood of any organization is the successful replenishment of talent through the Draft.
Jason Licht is the Bucs General Manager, and in Sunday’s divisional playoff victory over the Saints, his value as a talent administrator was on full display. His NFL Draft selections directly contributed to the Bucs’ victory.
Left tackle Tristan Wirfs, wide receiver Tyler Johnson and safety Antoine Winfield, Jr. all were drafted this year by Licht, and all played key roles in the Bucs’ win.
Wirfs shut down the Saints’ star defensive end Cameron Jordan. Jordan’s stellar play led to the Saints’ regular season domination of the Bucs, but on Sunday, Wirfs held the upper hand when it mattered.
Johnson is a receiver from the University of Minnesota. He was a fifth round selection, and within the Bucs’ talented wide receiver group, it’s been hard for him to find the field. But on Sunday, with wide receiver Antonio Brown out, Johnson was forced into action, and he delivered. Johnson made a critical – and difficult – catch on 3rd-&-11 that kept a drive alive, and which ultimately led to a late 23-20 Bucs lead.
Winfield, drafted in the second round, has played at a high level all year. On Sunday, he caused a key turnover when he punched the ball away from Saints tight end Jared Cook. The Saints appeared to be on their way to a ten-point, and perhaps seemingly insurmountable lead, but Winfield’s headiness reversed the momentum.
Licht’s judgment in selecting all Wirfs, Johnson and Winfield was stellar. Given the pandemic, every rookie had to have the discipline to make the adjustment to the NFL without any kind of traditional off-season or pre-season. Licht found young players who were able to make the adjustment, and elevate their play in the most critical moment, the playoffs.
Like any General Manager, Licht’s had his share of misses too, but to be fair, it’s a tough job as every move you make is in the open, and open to careful scrutiny and examination. On Sunday, Licht had his hits, and for that, we’re sure he’s a solid candidate for Executive of the Year.